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Glassation blows up in Denver

Denver is the nation's capital for the glass-art community, says Mandy Davis, Founder of online glass-art community and market Glassation. The site offers all manner of glass art from fused and painted glass to blown glass and smoke ware. "Basically we're the Amazon of glass art," Davis says.

Davis launched the site around four years ago as a social network for the glass art community, she says. At the time she was studying at University of Tampa. She met Zen Glass Studio owner Josh Poll who mentored her. Afterward she moved to Colorado because of the glass-art scene here. "Our followers and our fans are mostly in Colorado so it made sense for us to relocate here," she says. "So right now we're just focusing on making with the local glass community in Colorado, particularly Denver."

Glassation offers artists' works and also works with equipment suppliers to provide for glass artists' needs, according to Davis. Since the site began as a social network for the glass art community about four years ago, it has morphed into what it is today, incorporating the marketplace for artists -- which launched this January -- and other features such as blogs, she says.

The artists offering pieces on the site are from across the U.S., the U.K. and Israel. "To be on the website, [artists] must apply with their artist's statement as well as four quality photos," she says.

Currently Glassation is an online-only endeavor, but Davis has considered opening up a retail location. "We have been playing around with that idea for a while...but right now it's completely online," she says. "We also have a catalog and our fall catalog will come out soon."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

No items too large or small for Closetbox

A 1,000-square-foot apartment in Denver doesn't have enough space for two kayaks, skis, books, extra furniture, a mountain bike and road bike, skis, climbing gear and other outdoor goodies.

That's where Closetbox enters the picture. The company, which launched in early 2014, offers what it calls a concierge storage service that can accommodate people's needs -- no matter how large or small -- for storage.

"We are doing door-to-door delivery of storage," says Founder and CEO Markus J. Mollmann. "We are making storage convenient for busy folks living in an urban environment who live in smaller spaces."

Mollmann says they founded the company after he and wife had twins and started running out of space at home. He'd have to call friends to help move the items he couldn't handle himself. "There were two options before us: Hire a mover, which is $350 minimum for them to touch an item," he says. "We didn't want to go that route." The other option was self storage. "They'll give you a free truck and a free month which is fine but what we really needed was help moving so we incorporated both."

It follows that Closetbox offers storage based on customers' needs, according to Mollmann. That means a piece as small as a shoebox or a storage space like a 10-foot box. What's more, he says, the company makes storage as easy as printing up a label and ordering pick up and delivery of items at no extra charge.

Rates for the company's services start at as little as $15 a month and $2 per item. Or people can rent a storage space more like a conventional storage facility but still have the convenience of having the company pick up and drop off stored items within 24 hours.

In addition, rates are similar to those at self storage facilities in Denver, Mollmann says. The company's 100-square-foot units go for $143 a month. "Downtown, the most inexpensive storage facility in Denver is between $140 and $160 a month," he says. Such storage facilities also charge administration fees over $20 a month, push insurance and people have to secure their possessions with locks. Closetbox monitors the premises 24/7 and people can check on the status of their items anytime.

The service has grown quickly. "We're seeing two times growth month over month," says Mollman, adding that the company plans to expand.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

WALKscope helps Denver address walkability weaknesses

WalkDenver introduced WALKscope, a new online app that allows people -- anywhere in Denver and some surrounding areas -- to quickly identify and add to a database of pedestrian issues. Already the organization is harnessing the app's power to create reports on pedestrian issues near schools, to make them safer who students who walk, bike or skate to school.

"It's an interactive map that anybody can use to crowd-source data about the pedestrian infrastructure in their own neighborhood," explains Jill Locantore, WalkDenver's Policy and Program Director. "They just add a pin to the map, add some information: Is there a sidewalk? How wide is it? Is it in good condition?"

Users can also upload information about intersections, crosswalks whether drivers are obeying stop signs and other safety concerns.

"It's so that we can start building up the evidence base of pedestrian infrastructure and where do we see the real needs and start focussing attention so the city can make better more informed decisions about how it chooses to spend its limited transportation dollars," Locantore says. "We're sharing the information with the principals of the schools, Denver Public Works, CDOT and other entities that are interested in using this information to make the case for some very targeted improvements."

WalkDenver partnered with Denver's PlaceMatters to create the app, according to Locantore. "It was kind of a perfect marriage," she says. "We got a grant from the organization Mile High Connects in 2013. WalkDenver and PlaceMatters together to develop the application."

The app launched in February at the Partners for Smart Growth conference and attendees were asked to, well, walk a mile in their shoes so to speak, identifying pedestrian issues and adding them to the map.

"Since then, we've been encouraging people to use it as a tool but also we're very focused on walk audits," Locantore says. The audits are more in-depth walkability reviews of neighborhoods and areas around schools, particularly in low-income neighborhoods and those with high pedestrian accidents.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

DPL celebrates launch of Denver patent office with Steve Jobs exhibit

The Denver branch of the U.S. Commerce Department's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) officially opened June 30. To commemorate its opening, the Denver Public Library (DPL) is hosting an exhibit covering prolific inventor Steve Jobs. The exhibit, The Patents and Trademarks of Steve Jobs: Art and Technology that Changed the World, shows off 300 of the 317 patents issued to the late CEO of Apple.

It looks like a collection of iPhones fit for a blue whale with a yen for technology. "It's pretty big," explains Frank Wilmot, a senior librarian with DPL's Reference Services. "It's about eight feet tall and 20 yards long," he says. The display is housed in the DPL's Central Library's Schlessman Hall through Sept. 22.

Don't expect to make any jumbo-sized calls on them, all but one are static displays, Wilmot says. "The only thing that changes is the slideshow at one end of it." The slide show displays some of the trademarks Jobs patented.

The new patent office, housed in the Byron G. Rogers Federal Building, is the first federal patent office west of the Mississippi. It's anticipated to create 120 direct positions, generate $440 million in Colorado during its first five years in operation.

The Denver Public library is a designated Patent & Trademark Resource Center (PTRC), which provides inventors and patent lawyers, among others, a valuable resource for investigating patents including access to USPTO Web-based Search Systems and PubWEST database.

Wilmot says John Posthumus, a Denver-based patent attorney, worked with Rocky Mountain IP Collective, Invent Now, Inc. and the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office to bring the exhibit to Denver.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

LoHi Labs' Three Cents polling app a quick hit

LoHi Labs launched its free Three Cents polling app in May, and it quickly took off. "We got featured by Apple out of the gate as one of their 'Best New App's on the front page of the App Store and we've actually been featured every week since in the social networking category which has been pretty awesome," says Co-Founder and Product & Business Guy Conor Swanson.

So far, it hass generated more than 400,000 votes across the world since launching, including polls generated as far away as Indonesia. Not bad for LoHi Labs first internal product.

"We do a lot of client work helping build out applications for other startups around Denver and, actually, around the country," Swanson says. "The idea is something that we essential bootstrapped using funds from the consulting business."

The iPhone-only app is designed so that others using a phone or computer can respond to the polls,Swanson explains. It integrates data from numerous sources including Yelp, iTunes, TripAdvisor, Rotten Tomatoes, the App Store and more.

"One of the coolest things we've done on Three Cents is create an experience with Twitter," says Swanson. A poll published to Twitter becomes part of the Twitter stream "so you can see the full poll inside of Twitter and vote with one click without ever leaving Twitter."

"A really famous talk-show host in Indonesia who has 13 million followers on Twitter used our app to create a poll and ask a questions about public exams," Swanson says. "Over the course of the day, he got over 10,000 votes via Twitter on his Three Cents poll."

The polls are open to the public or sent to specific people, depending on what the user wants. "There are a lot of polls around social and political issues that are happening," Sawnson says. "We see a lot of question about sports, social topics, current events, personal preferences and relationship things. People go there to get ideas for movies to watch over the weekend."

Currently the developers are focussed on the consumer side of things. "There's a lot of interesting potential for the app down the road with regards to advertising and some of the other things we're doing in the app itself," Swanson says.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Colorado Enterprise Fund expands opportunities for healthy foods, small businesses

Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) recently introduced the Healthy Foods Fund to increase access to healthy foods across the state.

"We're the only Colorado entity or nonprofit involved in deploying those Healthy Foods Fund programs," explains CEF spokesperson Alisa Zimmerman. The fund offers loans of up to $250,000 to support retail grocers of all manner; packaging, processing and manufacturing food enterprises; food production companies; food distributors; urban agriculture projects and all segments of the food system in rural and urban areas of Colorado.

"There are a lot of areas, not just in urban parts of Colorado but throughout the state that are considered food deserts," Zimmerman says. "We're looking forward to helping small businesses that are involved in everything from farming to retail -- to any point along the food system to enhance their particular enterprises with funding from us."

She says the goal is "to reach more people so that everybody in Colorado has access to fresh foods within a mile of their home."

"It's a comprehensive kind of approach to the healthy food markets in Colorado," Zimmerman continues. "Which I think we're already ahead of being aware of it. But how do we do it?"

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Avanti Food & Beverage to be a "Galvanize for restaurateurs"

A cluster of shipping containers in the former Avanti Printing & Graphics building at 3200 Pecos St. in LoHi might be a panacea for restaurateurs or chefs looking to introduce and test new restaurant concepts without all of the costs associated with launching a full-fledged restaurant. That's the concept behind Avanti Food & Beverage, which is being called a Galvanize for restaurant startups.

"What we're trying to do is create this incubator as a whole," explains Co-Founder Patrick O'Neill, who started Choppers Custom Salads and The Club in Vail. O'Neill partnered with Brad Arguello, a founder of Über Sausage and Rob Hahn, a local real-estate developer and investor, on the concept. It is expected to open in early 2015.

"Brad and I wanted to create a low-risk, culinary think tank for chefs and restaurateurs," O'Neill says. They can launch their concept at the site for an about $12,000 investment up front, he says. "As opposed to $300,000 minimum for a standard brick and mortar." The restaurants will also pay a flat monthly rental rate and a small percentage of the sales.

"There are eight different licensed restaurants all based out of modified shipping containers," he adds. "Each one of these containers will be outfitted with high-end restaurant equipment -- ranges, flat grills, press tables, storage, refrigeration. It's all going to be there with a kind of communal, shared space as well."

Avanti is targeting restaurant concepts with smaller plates and prices no higher than $15 to allow people to try a variety of foods, according to O'Neill.

"It's going to be anchored by two bars, one downstairs, one upstairs," O'Neill says. "There will be five containers downstairs and three upstairs. There's also a good amount of deck space upstairs. It's all under one liquor license as well."

They anticipate that after a year in the incubator the restaurants will double their investment. "We really want to provide support," O'Neill says. "If they want to expand into a brick and mortar, we'll form something like an advisory committee. We'll have architects and builders and potential investors and ourselves and we'll sit down and say, 'Here's what you've got to do to take the next step.'"

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Digital Media Academy brings world-class tech training for teens to Denver

This summer, teens and youth are getting their first chance to enroll in a summer camp that could help them become masters of the digital world through the Digital Media Academy (DMA) at Regis University. The camps are part of a program that was created at Stanford University in 2002 and are quickly reaching capacity here in Denver.

"We're about finding kids that want to be the next Steve Spielberg, the next Steve Jobs," says Vince Matthews, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for DMA. "Technology today has turned them into kind of a maker generation where kids can take apps and bring them into a computer program and modify them and do something unique or different with them. We're about empowering people of all ages to create the future."

That's where the DMA steps in. "We teach anything related to digital media primarily creating things with media creation tools," says Matthews, citing C++, Java, iOS and Android as well as app and game development. The company also teaches filmmaking, photography, and "anything related to those creative arts and related to those creative arts and creating something with technology including…robotics," he says.

The program differentiates itself, Matthews says, with experienced educators. "Our instructors are industry professionals or technology educators that have been doing this for years," he says. "They are leaders in their space from a standpoint of working in the space for years and are teaching real world skill sets using the same tools and technologies that professionals use."

The camps are quickly selling out with only two starting on June 23 having availability. The camps for kids from 6 to 17 run through July 11. "We're expecting to sell out at all of our classes at all locations this summer," says Matthews.

The company also offers adult training and certification but that's currently only available at Stanford, according to Matthews.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

BodeTree enhances small business with new partnerships, capital

Small businesses need all the help they can get to grow bigger. That's where BodeTree fits in. The company offers an online platform to help small businesses understand where they are and tools to help them grow as they see fit -- mostly for free.

The Denver-based company recently announced a $2 million round of financing that will help expand its client base from about 50,000 small businesses to 200,000 through unique partnerships with local small business associations in Arizona, Michigan and Ohio. "Really, what that enables us to do is to scale to 20,000 to 30,000 users at a time through [each] organization," says BodeTree CEO Chris Meyer.

Where other small business platforms and tools focus on visualizing data through dashboards, BodeTree offers a steering wheel and control pedals. "The thing we compete against most poignantly is inaction and kind of the status quo of business owners not recognizing that these sorts of insights are available to them," says Meyer. "We visualize data but we have more of a humanistic approach.…Data visualization is a means to an end as opposed to an end in itself. We're more focused on where they [i.e., the businesses] stand today relative to the competition. Relative to what could be and really where they want to go in the future."

To this end, BodeTree offers tools that include valuation, target setting and interactive comparative analysis using data from the Risk Management Association (RMA), which banks use to rate investment risks. Meyer says the majority of tools are free but the company offers a premium service for $49.95 a month or $495 a year. Those services include peer comparison, reporting and capital raising.

"We connect the user with specific solutions to help them take action," he adds. "Funding is a huge component. We have an automated funding solution in there and several partners and applications that can actually help them act on the insight that we provide."

That includes helping businesses get credit cards, loans and funding through regional and national banks as well as alternative funders like Kabbage. The platform can streamline the underwriting process from 90 days to about five or six days, Meyer says.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Ready, set, vegetable! Find your local farmers' markets online

You can always go and get your fruits, and vegetables from the grocery stores, but they come from parts unknown and suffer from a lack of diversity -- and it's expensive.

It's June, it's time to be outside. Over in Palisade, peaches are ripening, and like wildflowers, farmers' markets are once again popping up. Overall, there are nearly 30 farmers' markets in the metro region with a lucky 13 close to Denver's heart.

Finding them and figuring out where and when they open and close can be frustrating, but Derek Rojers of Extra Space Storage recently created a Google map with all that information, making it easier to see how close people at to their local farmer's markets.

"I made this map as a way to help local businesses and people, who are the main support for our business here at Extra Space Storage," he says. "It is a community effort that we are hoping will help to grow the local community, help people, and keep money in Denver."

Rojers says he scoured the Internet to learn about local farmers' markets and got some added input from people who emailed him. "People cannot add their markets to the map, but they are more than welcome to email me and I will add them," he says.

Oh, and did we mention all the free samples farmers and local food manufacturers like salsa and sauce and jam makers give out? In a word, yum.

Check the map out and find your local farmers' market below. 

Map provided by your local Extra Space Storage

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Potreprenuers pause for thought at Colorado Cannabis Summit

Colorado's cannabis industry could bring in $2.3 billion in 2014 revenues now that recreational marijuana is legal. While the rollout of the state's marijuana rules and stores has arguably been better received than the rollout of national healthcare, the industries that are working to support it -- from lighting and cooling to warehousing and banking -- are struggling to keep up with the fast-paced growth. Those issues are at the center of the Colorado Cannabis Summit at Denver's Exdo Event Center on May 22.

The summit is being billed as the first business-to-business summit to support the budding marijuana industry. As such it's bringing innovation from around the country to Colorado, including companies like Surna, which is helmed by Zynga Co-Founder Tom Bollich. Surna, the key sponsor of the event, says its technology could increase climate control efficiency between 30 percent and 50 percent. "We have redeveloped how water chilling works, but the technology field is pretty wide open on what's going to come next," he says.

Meanwhile, warehouse lease rates have skyrocketed in Colorado. In the first quarter of 2014 alone, summit organizers observe that rates have gone from about $4.50 per square foot to $20 per square foot.

"That increase has brought a lot of in-state investors into the marketplace," says Phillip Walker, Director of Business Development of Foothills Commercial Builders. Those investors are individuals since banks are still not lending to most marijuana growers -- despite legislation this year that should enable banks to make such loans.

Organizers also created an app for the Colorado Cannabis Summit, which is available at the website.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

PlaceWise Media moves consumers from the Internet to the mall

PlaceWise Media has grown to a national consumer sales powerhouse operating behind the veil of the Internet. The company develops and operates the websites for roughly 500 malls and other retail locations across the U.S., including grocery stores, touching some 25 million shoppers a month, without ever putting its name out there. 

"We deliver you just what you want right where you are," says PlaceWise CEO Mort Aaronson. "If you're the advertiser, we deliver the mirror-image opposite -- just who you want right when you're ready." 

The strategy puts the company at the nexus between the shopper, local retail location and advertiser from computers to mobile devices.

"We also sell to companies that do deals, coupons and specials and we also distribute access to our advertising easements through alignments with media companies," Aaronson explains.

The company provides website services for roughly 50 percent of the malls in the U.S. “What we do is very specific,” Aaronson contends. “We need to know what’s there and who goes there and we need to know something about the local community. We need to know all the retailers there.” He quips, “You don’t put a gap ad in a mall that doesn’t have a Gap and I can assure you that while it may seem like there’s a Gap in every mall there isn’t.”

The grocery (99 percent) and health, fashion and beauty (93 percent) of sales are made in person -- even if the consumers are looking up products online, Aaronson says. Today’s smartphones, mobile devices and computers can connect consumers with goods in local stores. "We have the ability to take that shopper from the ad, deliver them to the store, prove it out to the advertiser or the brand and that’s a pretty interesting value proposition right now," Aaronson says.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Gociety creates social network for outdoor activities

Gociety, which recently launched out of Denver, has a simple motto: "Meet People. Get Outside. Be Awesome."

"What we do is we create a platform for people to link up have access to resources with the overall goal of everyone just getting outside as much as they can," explains Jason Antin, Gociety's Director of Partnerships.

The website allows people to register for free and create a profile on the site, explaining what activities they're interested in as well as their skill level. Members can then create an event using dropdown menus to select the sport and required skill level.

Event creators or leaders can either ask other people to participate based on their profiles and skill level or leave the event open to everyone in the community. It's not meant to make an event exclusive -- when an event requires specialized skills like knowledge of avalanche safety for backcountry skiing, it can put everyones' lives at greater risk to have beginners along.

"We want to provide options to them to do anything from a causal two-mile run around Wash Park to a rim-to-rim-to-rim trip to the Grand Canyon -- from very beginner to anything you can wrap your head around," Antin says.

Gociety's site had its hard launch in January 2014. By the end of April it already had a quickly growing user base, according to Antin.

"2014 is a big year of building community," he says, noting that mobile apps are forthcoming but not yet available. The plan is to roll out the next phase in 2015 and "continue to build up this platform to be your outdoor portfolio," he explains.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Barreled app makes for more informed whiskey decisions

If you've ever pored over the vast collection of whiskeys, scotches, bourbons and whiskys at your favorite liquor store or bar or restaurant, you'd know there are hundreds of brands and thousands of choices out there.

It’s hard to tell which copper-hued whiskey is going to be a favorite by looks and price alone. That's where Barreled, a new website and app, comes in. Developer Casey O'Neill spent months creating a database of more than 3,000 whiskeys and reviews from professional tasters and amateur imbibers who all share the same passion -- whiskey.

O’Neill’s interest in the spirit grew after he joined the Denver Whiskey Club. "I'd be in the liquor store trying to figure out if I should buy this [or that whiskey]," he says. "You don't know if you can trust the shelf-talkers."

"I wanted to have an app where you come to this whiskey and then there are user reviews and you'll see your friends pop up to the top," O'Neill explains. "So if you know what they like you like you’ll have a better idea if you like this and we aggregate critics' reviews as well." Those reviews come from publications like Whiskey Advocate and Whiskey Cask. Users can touch or click on the review and be taken to the site.

O'Neill is continuing to add features to the app (available on iOS and Android) as well as the site, and on making it as social-media friendly as possible.

"Of any liquor, I feel that whiskey is probably the most popular, and has the biggest following," he says. "If this is successful, I could see doing other spirits."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

FORETHOUGHT.net bringing gigabit speed to Denver

FORETHOUGHT.net is bringing gigabit per second speed Internet connections to Denver -- at last. The company recently installed fiber in an apartment building at 2330 Broadway, among the first apartments in Denver to offer fiber-based Internet service.

There aren't too many options for high-speed Internet for most Denver customers.The main choices for somewhat high-speed Internet are Comcast or CenturyLink. At about 50 megabits per second for Comcast and 40 Mb/s for CenturyLink, they're are a far cry from a screeching telephone modem topping out at 320 kilobits per second. While a telephone modem connection moves at a snail's pace, high-speed Internet walks, and FORETHOUGHT.net's gigabit fiber-optic options screams by in a rocket to Mars.

Even though there's far more bandwidth on Comcast's cable lines than old phone lines, there's still a lot of information -- cable TV, Internet and phone, going through the copper lines, which slows the transmission speed down. "That's the main advantage of having the fiber at the last mile,” says FORETHOUGHT.net Director of Business Development Patrick Mann. "Over a copper connection, that’s where things slow down. That direct fiber connection you're going to get that gigabit Internet and we do not throttle or put any limitations on the bandwidth or limits on the amount of downloads that our customers do on the Internet connection."

The foundation for the services offered by FORETHOUGHT.net were put in place in the 1990s, when dark fiber -- unused fiber optic cable -- was originally installed throughout parts of the region and state, Mann explains. He joined the company last December to expand its services to commercial buildings and multi-unit residences in Denver and throughout Colorado.

"It's a huge initiative for us to start driving the gigabit fiber into these large commercial buildings as well the multiple-home units giving the residents choice there as far as Internet service providers," Mann says. The set rates for the service are $70 a month for residents and $200 a month for commercial buildings -- Comcast's 50 Mb/s service has a base price of $50 a month.

Still, the new choice won’t be ubiquitous in Denver anytime soon. "Due to the buildout cost, we do have to do some pre-sales and gauge the interest as to how many customers we can get," Mann says, noting that it won’t be cost-effective for the company to come out and retrofit every home in a neighborhood anytime soon.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.
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